New fentanyl bill isn’t tough enough, Colo. police leaders say

The penalty for simple possession needs to go further, said Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen

By Suzie Ziegler 

DENVER — A new Colorado bill meant to address the opioid crisis doesn’t go far enough, local police leaders told Colorado Public Radio last week.  

Under the legislative proposal, people who carry four grams of fentanyl or less face a misdemeanor unless prosecutors can prove they were selling the drug, according to the report. Paul Pazen, Denver’s police chief, says the legislation needs to go further to prevent more opioid-related deaths. 

“This is something like we’ve never seen,” Pazen said. “People are dying unwittingly and unknowingly. You can’t ignore that people are dying. In our city, more than one a day are dying. How do folks square that?” 

Other law enforcement leaders say the bipartisan bill likely won’t gain their support unless lawmakers agree to raise the penalties for simple possession. 

“This drug is so deadly that possession of any amount should have a felony consequence. Since no amount of fentanyl is safe, this coalition will seek amendments to elevate ‘simple possession’ to a felony,” said a lobbying group of law enforcement leaders in a statement obtained by Colorado Public Radio. “Colorado cannot afford to take small, incremental steps to address the fentanyl crisis.” 

Another police group, the Colorado Drug Investigators Association, was also disappointed by the lower penalties. 

“The current form of this bill, unfortunately, falls short of the mark,” said Matthew Stoneberger, the president of CDIA.  

However, supporters of the bill say that prosecutors should still be able to prove that someone with four grams of fentanyl was intending to sell it.

NEXT: Evolving strategies to win the war on opioids (eBook)

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